One of my favorite books to recommend to writers and reader is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. The books reveals details about his early life, struggles with alcoholism and drugs, a severe accident that changed his life, and his writers journey. This particular book, though short in comparison to so many other texts on writing, is succinct, to the point, and delivers some of the best hard-earned advice in the business, subject, and craft of writing.
“The work is always accomplished one word at a time.”
For those that enjoy writing and use it as a form of personal outlet, it’s satisfying to learn about King’s journey as a writer and his feedback on rejection letters from publishers and magazines. Reflecting back on it, I can draw comparisons to the everyday individual receiving rejection emails after submitting employment applications. And, King himself seems to think of it like any other job out there. It takes some getting use to the rejection, but the writer or the employee looking for an opportunity simply gathers their skirts – so to speak – and keeps on walking. Get it together and try again.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
One of the many reasons that I enjoy this book so much and recommend it to others frequently is because, when I had doubts about whether I could ever even be considered someone that knew writing and composition well enough to teach it to others, this book confirmed many of my instinctive recommendations. It was a confirmation that was not actively sought out but really needed. The foundations of the language, some proficient grasp of basic grammar, and the notion that writing and reading go hand in hand are key elements.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Practice. Practice. Practice. You have to write. You have to read. King simply confirms what so many English instructors have wasted their breathe telling their students. There is no magic formula other than write, read, and repeat. But, what about inspiration some of you must be thinking. King does talk about how he was drawn to certain ideas and themes. For the most part, however, he simply explains how they began with very simple thoughts that came to him randomly in the middle of living his life. He scribbled random notes on paper or napkins and came back to them when he needed to break the mental gridlock. This is the part of the book that I enjoy the most: he doesn’t glamorize writing. In fact, King can be quite self-deprecating. He kind of considers himself a professional liar, nothing special.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Writing Craft. Pocket Books, 2 June 2002.
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